Articles, quizzes, and grammar tips for word-lovers everywhere

Tag: word origins

twins

Make mine a double: speaking of twins

As a twin, I spent my childhood being called the wrong name. I still turn around if I hear someone say ‘Colin’, which can be difficult to explain to people who have no idea about my not-so-secret double. Truth be told, I never found that particular mishap as annoying as “Can you read each other’s […]

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Facebook

What happens when language becomes “Facebook official”?

It’s hard to imagine that just 10 years ago, few of us had even heard of Facebook. What initially started out as a social network for students of Harvard University has grown into one of the most frequented (and valuable) domains in all of the vast space of the Internet. As quickly as the now […]

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champagne

A Melchizedek of champers: 9 word facts about champagne

It’s always difficult to say “Hello!” to January and “Good-bye…” to the holidays. Suddenly we find ourselves bogged down by the usual January blues—not to mention subjected to Blue Monday’s annual arrival — and burdened by certain debts after all that sweet and savory celebrating. Cookies, cakes, candy…butter cast haphazardly into every bubbling pot or […]

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kangaroo

Kangaroo: the international and regional word

26 January is Australia Day, a commemoration of the day in 1788 when Governor Arthur Phillip and his fleet of ships arrived in Australia, in the area that would become Sydney, in order to establish a convict colony. Governor Phillip had in his possession a list of Aboriginal words, provided to him by the botanist […]

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tartan

For auld lang syne: the origins of some Scottish words

An extract from the Oxford Dictionary of Word Origins Scotland has given English many words—some from the Gaelic language, some from Scots, and others reflecting links to further shores. The Scots poet Robert Burns (1759–96) has also weighed in with memorable expressions. After a history marked by conflict, the Scottish and English nations were joined […]

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couple man woman ballroom dancers tangoing  silhouette

Welcome to Dan’s Class: the language of Strictly Come Dancing

First of all, if you didn’t get the witty wordplay of my title, don’t bother to read on. Dan’s class; dance class? Never mind, this isn’t Strictly Pun Dancing after all. I’m sorry*, I’ll stop now. If, like me, you spend your Saturday evenings with a bottle of red, agonizing over Sophie’s samba or Fiona’s […]

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movie reel

Origin stories: fictional titles and their lasting impressions

How I stopped worrying and learned to love the language To avoid appearing like simple-minded vessels of superficial consumption, we often try not to let on the extent to which media has come to inform our lives. From the time we are young, we’re encouraged to value real-life experiences over the simulated kind found in […]

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Turkey dinner

From 1621 to 1863: giving thanks for new words of old

America’s “First Thanksgiving” is often attributed to the early 17th century (1621, in fact) when a small band of Pilgrims gathered with a small band of American Indians to partake together of a bountiful harvest at Plymouth Plantation. This celebration lasted a whopping three days—and it wasn’t called “Thanksgiving”. Only in 1863 was the annual […]

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